by Rev. Nancy Cushman
Discipleship is the center of our mission as a church and the center of our practice as Christians. Disciples are people who not only want to know Jesus, we are people who want to be like Jesus. Jesus lived in absolute sync with God. In fact, Scripture tells us that the two moved as one. As people who want to be like Jesus, we seek to live our lives to the Divine rhythm, so it hums in us and through us. There are many distractions and many forces seeking to draw us into other rhythms. Part of our intentional work as Christians is to continually check to see if we are still in sync with Christ. I think of one dancer or martial artist (you and I) mirroring the movements of the other (Jesus). Weekly worship and involvement in the church call us to refocus on a regular basis. The rhythms and stories of the liturgical year create spaces and inspiration to invite us to refocus our lives. Spiritual disciplines or practices are intentional efforts to draw us closer to God.
Christian writer and pastor, Rev. John Ortberg describes a spiritual discipline in this way – “a spiritual discipline is any activity that can help me gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it.”[i] It is any activity that can help me live in sync with the divine rhythm. There are many traditional spiritual disciplines that have proven over time and through the practice of generations of faithful people to be helpful and effective. Some traditional spiritual disciplines are prayer, the study of Scripture, fasting or abstinence, generous giving. Are there other practices that are shaped to our interests and passions that can serve as spiritual disciplines?
How do we know what spiritual disciplines to practice? Ortberg offers these suggestions:
- We must understand what it means to live in the kingdom of God. We must understand who Jesus was and how he lived to understand what the rhythm looks like.
- We must learn what barriers keep us from living this kind of life. And I’m not talking about abstractions here. For example, Jesus was accessible to people, to all people. What barriers keep me from being accessible to people? Jesus was compassionate. What barriers keep me from being compassionate? Jesus took time away to be with God. What barriers keep me from spending focused time with God? What is keeping you and me from living in tune with the Divine song?
- We must discover what particular practices, experiences, or relationships can help us overcome these barriers.
As I prepare for retirement, I know that I will need spiritual disciplines to help me remain focused and committed to growing as a disciple. I plan to put deep roots in a church community and I will listen for the answer to my prayer, “Lord, what do you want to do through me now?” I will also spend time in God’s creation, nurturing our gardens and listening to the rhythms of the created world. In March, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry shared a webinar by travel expert Rick Steves called “Travel as a Spiritual Act.” You can still watch the webinar at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJ3sL-RKnTM. This idea of travel as a spiritual act intrigues me. As I understand the kingdom of God, every person is valued as a beloved child of God. As I understand Jesus, he was compassionate It seems to me that travel with intentionality can help me appreciate people of other cultures and places. It can help me grow in compassion. I know that my travels to Ethiopia and Kenya have profoundly changed how I think of Africa. It has softened my heart to their struggles and enlivened my desire to see their successes. Making travel a spiritual discipline will require intentionality and mindfulness and it leads me to wonder what else could draw me into a closer rhythm with Christ in this next season of life.
What spiritual disciplines and practices help you grow as Christ’s disciple? Are there things that you are doing or would like to do that could be turned into a spiritual practice with a little thought and intentionality? The divine rhythm leads us to the way of life, true life as God intends it. It is a rhythm we can follow no matter our age, our status, or our circumstances.
“Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth—teach it to me— because you are the God who saves me. I put my hope in you all day long. Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love— they are forever!” Psalm 25:4-6
May you find Christ’s joy in the rhythms of your life.
[i] John Ortberg. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997, 2002) p. 43-45.